Annick Press has spent decades advocating for a prominent role for trade books in the classroom. The educational arguments for embracing reading for pleasure are compelling. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment reports that “a crucial difference between students who perform well in the PISA reading assessment and those who perform poorly lies in whether they read daily for enjoyment, rather than how much time they spend reading. On average, students who read daily for enjoyment score the equivalent of one-and-a-half years of schooling better than those who do not.”
Connecting reading for pleasure with curriculum can bolster relationships between teachers and their students who are working remotely. Karen Filewych, educator and author of How Do I Get Them to Write?, explains that “during these difficult times, it is especially important to establish connections with our students.... Books can reinforce the curricular content, help us discover various viewpoints, and provide opportunities to explore topics such as identity and relationships. Whether we are back in the classroom or continuing with distance learning, as teachers, we can leverage the power of literature by reading aloud to our students.”
Donalyn Miller, an educator from Texas, agrees. “Providing trade books for students to read at home supports learning by building background knowledge, story schema, and vocabulary through engaging, relevant texts that appeal to young readers,” she notes.
The tools for enhanced academic achievement through reading are within parents’ and educators’ grasp. Covid-19, as awful and disruptive as it is, may present opportunities for trade publishers to participate in shaping the dramatically new ways in which education is delivered. Not every child is returning to classrooms this fall, schools will need to be prepared to shift to distance learning on short notice, and some combination of in-class and distance learning may be required. Schools will need to enhance their digital and print collections to respond to this changing reality. Publishers are well positioned to supply the education sector at this time and are experiencing greater interest in their digital and print offerings. “The Covid-induced shutdown has dramatically accelerated schools’ adoption of trade e-books and audiobooks, to record levels,” says Angela Arnold, general manager for OverDrive Education.
However, some believe mere access to the books is not the key, but rather tying those books to learning. “When [a trade book is] combined with an engaging resource, students and educators can experience a wonderful opportunity for meaningful teaching and learning, both in person and online,” says library media specialist Jonelle St. Aubyn.
We at Annick are inclined to agree. Having invested heavily in teacher and study guides with curriculum links, publishers are positioned, like never before, to supply the educational sector with books and accompanying resources that will support and encourage learning. For instance, Annick Press has provided a new feature on our website: Annick @ Home. With free downloadable lesson plans, activity sheets, and videos to accompany books with curriculum connections, this feature will help make remote learning and teaching at home easier, more enjoyable, and richer academically.
Rick Wilks is publisher, Brendan Ouellette is digital product manager, and Shayanna Seymour is assistant marketing manager at Annick Press.